Kingston-based charity Voices of Hope started as a community choir looking to engage those facing life’s hardest battles, from domestic violence and addiction, to mental and physical health struggles. It sought to break down the barriers many face in actively engaging in community.
Through singing together, a sense of belonging emerged and many felt empowered to reclaim their voices. However, as the pandemic hit, the 10 existing community choirs came to a halt.
Founder Sarah Clay started conversing with local spoken word artist Chloe Smith to look at a new way to engage those struggling and in need of community. From their collective dreaming, Mountain Top Talks – a cross generational think tank for people and groups of all ages, races and genders – was born.
The aim is to get people talking about subjects that unite us the most: family, vulnerability, culture and influence. Through these common-unities, a cross generation of people are being heard and community is being built. The think tanks take place on Zoom, where carefully crafted questions provoke discussions on each subject explored. Chloe collates the verbatim thoughts and feelings shared and turns them into spoken word poetry.
The creative response of the poetry, both written and filmed, will become a verbal gallery of their work and a memorial of their community. The poetry will be shared across social media for greater reach, impact and celebration of this innovative approach to connection.
Says Chloe: “The response has been hugely positive to the point of being overwhelming. The stark contrasts in thought and feeling make it an exciting project for me as a writer. I am getting insights into communities I wouldn’t have previously had access to and, further still, the creative and poetic awakening in the participants is really what has excited me most.”
To find out more about Voices of Hope and Mountain Top Talks, visit: voh.org.uk